Indianola City Hall

Indianola City Hall

The Indianola Police Department soon could be looking for one more officer — a furry one.

The Indianola city council gave the police department the informal go ahead to pursue creating a K9 unit during a work session Monday. Indianola has had three canine units in the past, said interim police chief Brian Sher, with the last dog, Major, retiring in 2014.

“One particular seizure stands out to me, and we did a lot of them with the dogs,” Sher told the council. During a search of a drug house, the dog kept paying special attention to the floor vents. When officers removed the vents they found $36,000 in drug money.

“That dog also found an Alzheimer’s patient that had walked away during the winter,” Sher told the council. “It saved that person’s life, no doubt.”

A storage building the police use behind Arby’s in Indianola was paid for by forfeited drug money, he added. The local police department gets about 80 percent of any money seized in connection with a. crime, he explained, with 10 percent going to the Iowa attorney general’s office and 10 percent going to the Warren County attorney’s office.

“But I don’t want to take it from that angle,” he said. Instead, he said, he wants to focus on the community outreach possibilities. Sher and Officer Nicole Stewart, who has been working on the plan, said they are interested in a dog that would detect narcotics and do tracking rather than a dog that focuses on handler protection and “bite work.”

“We would be leaning toward non-bite work,” he said. “it’s more of a friendly dog. You can get it out in a crowd and not worry that it’s going to bite someone.”

 The estimated cost of adding the program would be about $98,000 in the first year, said Officer Nicole Stewart, who is spearheading research on the program. That would cover the cost of the dog, training for both the dog and its handler and a vehicle equipped to carry the dog.

The police department already has a grant for $7,500 from the USPCA toward the purchase of the dog, but it has to be spent within six months, she explained.

“There are other grants we can be applying for,” she said, including programs that pay for food for working dogs and that donate Narcan, which reverses overdoses in people and in dogs who overdose on the odor of the drugs they smell.

“And a lot of people would want to donate because everybody loves dogs,” she added.

“We’re looking for some direction,” said Sher. “There’s a lot more we can be doing to beg, borrow or steal to get this program started.”

The next step, he said, will be deciding what trainer they want to work with and then what breed of dog they want. “Maybe a lab, something like that,” said Sher.

The council also heard a presentation on Indianola Hometown Pride’s Wonder on Buxton project from Doug Bylund, who is the staff liaison to Hometown Pride.

The group has been working on the project since 2020, Bylund explained, which is designed to beautify North Buxton Street from Simpson College to the Indianola Square and to create a sense of connection between the College and the Square.

“One of the things we're working on is improvements to the county on parking lot north of the Opera building,” he said. “We’re talking about a six-part sculpture series, storytelling signs and a walking tour.”

It would feature gathering spaces along the route, including on the lawn of the Warren County Administration Building, he said.

“I like that we’re building off the energy of streetscape,” said council member John Parker. “It adds to the gateway of the Square.”

“We talk about town and gown all the time in bigger ways,” added council member Gwen Schroder, referring to the relationship between Indianola and Simpson College. “This is a start.”

Hometown Pride is working on fundraising for the project and a grant application to the Iowa Great Places program, which will match any locally raised money, said Bylund. The grant application will be due later in the fall, he said.

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